Tarai Bune: Take a Ride in a Traditional Japanese Washtub

  • A Tub Boat is basically a small boat in the shape of a round wash tub which was extensively used in the past for fishing along the coast of Sea of Japan and on Sado island. It was very famous due to its durability and low cost. But nowadays, only a few villages in the remote areas of Sado have been keeping this fishing tradition alive. Let’s find out what makes this Tub Boat so cool!

    What is Tarai-bune?

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    Tarai-bune is the name of the Japanese Tub Boat that was developed in the Sado city, Niigata prefecture. It was made from a washtub and was used firstly during the Meiji era. They are still used today but not so much as it has become rare. One of the advantages of the tub boat is that they can turn easily. It is a great way to fish in rocky lagoons and small inlets. The Ogi peninsula in Sado has lots of deposits of seaweed and shells even today. Collecting them is very comfortable if one`s boat is a round shape and can turn easily in a circle.

    The Sado Tarai-bune was born out of necessity and geographical location. These tub boats were once so important that they were used even during weddings. Visitors to this places can ride these boats for recreation for a low price.

    It’s a vanishing tradition

    Sado once had expert carpenters to produce these boats. These boats are round and require some level of expertise to build. These carpenters were held in great respect during those days. The craft name is called as ‘Hangiri’ or ‘half barrel’. The design of tarai-bune is very simple but the braiding of the hoops is a rare skill. Tarai-bune is made of Japanese cedar called ‘sugi’ and ‘madake’ which is the timber bamboo. Some boats have glass bottoms to sight their prey or catch.

    It is our duty to protect this dying tradition. If everyone would document it, popularize and share it, it might be possible to retain this age-old fishing practice in this modern era.

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